Longterm consequences for singers

Hello everybody

Are there any singers who already had a surgery (internal or external) who could tell me about their singing experience after surgery? Did you regain your singing abilities to 100%? I am a professional singer and VERY worried about consequences for my voice after removing the sthyloid. (Especially because I found a good surgeon that only does it internally, so there will be a cut in the area that needs to vibrate during singing)
I’m thankful for any advice.

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We had a member who is a professional singer a while back; he was able to sing afterwards . Here’s a link to his post-surgery discussions: Bilateral Eagle Syndrome Extraoral Surgery #1 of 2: My day 1 experience/post-op recovery/tips
It may well have been external surgery though, I don’t know all the anatonomy so not sure how much difference it makes.
MusicGeek has also posted an update- her voice is not back to performance level, but improving:
Are there any saxophonist or wind musicians out there?
Hopefully others can chip in with advice for you.

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CHey @LaO,

I also sang professionally and it was a big part of my film scoring advantage since I could work and add voice or voices whenever I wanted.

I was also offered internal oral surgery, but chose to keep seeking after I researched that type of surgery. My voice had been damaged about ten years prior because of an incident where I needed to scream for help, in order to stop an attempted homicide and people didn’t come right away-( yes it was stopped).
I lost part a big part of my range from the incident. I used to have close to a four octave range and sang in choirs and groups in whatever needed position they had - that stopped after the screaming incident and my perhaps the unknown Eagle Syndrome shortened my range to just two octaves. Besides singing and playing lead tenor in a big band - I have also narrated films and acted as Kleopatra in a VR game - because of my voice. When I found this forum (which I am very thankful for BTW) I only asked about wind instruments because I was so sick I thought the voice side of me would be a lost cause. It wasn’t.

As of last week I am able to comfortably sing a D below middle C (concert). Sorry to be so technical, but there are several different schools of thought on how Octaves are numbered. That ‘D’ means I can sing the song ‘Wave’ in the key it is written! It also means I gained four notes in my lower end of range. I’m now just three notes short of three full octaves. This took about a full year after my last surgery, but one of my ES bones was actually fractured inside, so I had a lot of torn tissue to heal, including a couple of major arteries that were getting scraped on the outside (yes that gives me “the willies”).
I don’t want to upset you, but one of the deciding factors of my not getting the inter oral surgery type was because I read up on it and I watched a YouTube video of it. I did not like how the bone is cut, and how immediately goes back into the throat after the cut without looking at what kind of edge was created. I had a musical instrument repair biz for years and I know tools and materials. I do not know living bone, but I have worked with bone and ivory - I do not like how that surgery is done or its stats on infection.

What @Jules said about the other singer calling his surgery -not likely to be interoral, I concur. He had shown exterior shots of his incisions to me when I wrote to him before my surgeries and they were outside. Something to consider is how people often write shortly after surgeries while also on some gnarly drugs LOL.

If you are worried about scars, please don’t LOL. I had cold laser treatments for internal scar tissue, not throat, but within my muscles and ligaments. It took awhile, but the nasty scar tissue broke down. There was an added benefit - my scars now need to be pointed out to be seen. My doctor is very proud of herself, but I told her she’s ruined many of my jokes and also my “street cred” lol.

I had to fly three states away from my home three times in order to get a doctor with a good record of experience. It’s just two trips for most others that need both sides done. Before I chose my surgeon, I had a doctor at a teaching college near me drooling to do my surgery “inter oral”. I am normally a push over with other people’s wishes. This was a time to do what helped me. Others can learn the needed surgeries by assisting someone experienced, people with ES have been through enough. One of my specialist explained to me, that “no two necks are the same”. The nerves and muscles etc can be in slightly different places- it is not for the faint of heart to do the surgeries nor for someone just learning surgery in general. I have heard many stories since my surgeries and my mind is blown by how many times an “intern” was given this surgery to “learn from”. That’s another topic.
Please be selfish. I give you permission LOL.

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Hi there, I’m also a professional singer and did my surgery in November 2015. I did both sides at the same time internally and recovered very fast and well. The first 2 months or so it was difficult singing and I had to train my voice alot (it sounded a bit like I was drunk or tired) but after that I’m a better singer now than before. I can even reach tones I couldn’t before so I so happy I went through with the surgery. Wish you good luck! And don’t hesitate to ask questions:) best regards, Sanna

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Glad to hear that you’re doing so well Sanna! Thanks for sharing your story again! :grin:

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Hey Sorry I was so long winded. @SaaMee I am very glad it worked out for you!

I hope it Will get better for you too! All good wishes :heart:

Saamee, Are you still doing well since your surgery? Voice and everything? Who was your surgeon?

Hi @amanda81 yes I am still doing well:)
I have still pain in my upperback/neck due to bad posture that I got before the surgery since I went a long time with pain and kept walking around pushing my head forward. I occasionally go to a PT who try to help me train my back muscles to gain a better posture but I’m too lazy to hit the gym so I’m kind of stuck with that and it’s my own fault. Usually when I go to the gym I get worse pain after and it makes me a bit afraid. I also usually become sick or catch the flue…so I’m in a bad spiral regarding this. Does any of you have this problem? To get like a muscle inflammation after going to the gym? How did you start training after surgery?

Sometimes I feel something like a small pain or irritation behind my ears when I am out in very cold weather (we have -20 degrees in sweden sometimes) or have the flue for example but my doctor told me it can be a muscle inflammation and are quite common to get even when the “bones” are removed. (I call them my “eagle bones” because I don’t know the proper name for it).

My voice is way better than before and I still keep developing my singing voice. When I watch old videos from performances I can really hear the difference and people around me also comment on the drastic change. I used to have a different range but now I can sing higher tones and mix between low and high without difficulty. Before my voice “broke” when I went from midrange to high pitch. Due to my toung/muscle not being able to move properly because of the “eagle bones”.

I did my surgery in Stockholm in Sweden at Karolinska Huddinge hospital. They have several doctors who preform this surgery. They also do it at their “sister hospital” called Karolinska Solna it’s also in Stockholm in Sweden.

Feel free to ask any questions or let me clarify if you don’t understand the above:)

Best regards Sanna


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Hi Everyone, I know this is an old thread but I’m just checking in. I am (or was) a pro singer, and am considering styloidectomy on one side. Along with that, my surgeon also wants to fix a deviated septum, possibly a CSF leak and clear a chronic infection. Sounds like a LOT and while I do tire easily, my voice is doing OK right now.

I’m 51, and wonder what changes I might expect and how long after surgery I should expect to wait before singing in public. And what tips do people have on surgery prep and research? I hear talk of avoiding internal approach in this thread. Any other cautions?

And how’s everybody doing? Thanks!

Hi nnaeve,

You are very fortunate that ES isn’t affecting your singing voice. That’s rare among our members who are professional singers. It sounds like you do have several things going on that would make sense to get taken care of in one surgery. Irritation to the vagus nerve by the styloid is what most often affects the vocal cords. Since the nerves are monitored during surgery to help prevent any further damage than ES has caused, your voice should continue to be fine after surgery. Getting your deviated septum repaired is the only thing I can think of that might change how your voice sounds, but I don’t know if that’s even an issue. It would be something to ask your doctor.

I assume you’re seeing Dr. Hepworth based on your location & your symptoms. He seems to be a pretty amazing & thorough surgeon as our members who’ve had him do their ES & other surgeries sing his praises.

As far as surgical recovery goes, it can take from a few days to close to a year for irritated nerves to recover after surgery. Recovery is a three steps forward/two steps back/three steps forward…process. It takes patience & time. I was 58 when I had my ES surgeries, & it took two months after each surgery for my energy to return though some of my ES symptoms began disappearing before then. It did take close to a year to feel like my nerves had fully recovered after surgery.

You should be aware that during surgery (even w/ monitoring), there are nerves that may need to be gently moved out of the way so the styloid can be shortened & this causes them to become irritated. Two that most often seem to cause some post op trouble are the facial & glossopharyngeal nerves. The facial nerve can cause a lower lip droop on one side. The glossopharyngeal nerve can cause minor paralysis to half of the tongue. These would definitely impact your ability to sing though both of these post op problems usually recover within 2-6 months after surgery, & they usually do not occur together i.e. our members who’ve had problems note one or the other but normally not both.

As far as public singing goes, your body & energy level will dictate the timing for that. It will likely be 1-2 months post op before you’ll feel like performing. With external surgery, you will have an incision in the side of your neck which will take a month + to heal. You can cover it w/ a loose scarf or turtle neck shirt if you feel up to performing in public before it’s fully healed.

Here’s a link to post op suggestions that Seamom put together:

I’ll add that I prefer the gel ice packs because they’re pretty soft & will wrap gently around your incision area. I would get 2-3 & put them in your freezer 2 days prior to surgery. Some people can eat as soon as they get home from surgery but others have a stiff jaw &/or sore throat so a soft diet (soup, cottage cheese, yogurt, smoothies, mashed potatoes, mac 'n cheese, pudding, etc) is more preferable for a week or two. A laxative & stool softener are vital if you’re planning to take Rx pain meds as they are normally opioids & are very constipating.

The wedge pillow will keep your head elevated (30º of elevation is recommended) when resting or sleeping which lowers inflammation in the neck & throat. A neck pillow (U or V- shaped) can help stabilize your neck position while sleeping. Ice your neck every few hours keeping ice on your neck for 15 min then off for at least 45 min. The gel packs usually come covered but you may find you need a little additional protection for your skin. Ice really helps w/ post op swelling & pain for most people.

I am 6.5 years out from my first ES surgery & nearly 6 from my second & still doing well. I am definitely an advocate of ES surgery even considering the time I had to step back from my activities to recover from each surgery.

Thank you so much for this detailed reply! I have tons of ice packs laying around from years of chonic pain, LOL so I’m good on at least one front!

I was thinking of elevating my bed from the base (blocks under legs under the head) during recovery, or maybe a combo of that and pillows, since I know I don’t sleep well hunched in, but we’ll see. Maybe an adjustable base is ideal.

I don’t know how much EDS has affected my voice. It seems to generally sound fine, but I do get tired quickly - that’s the main issue. I can’t make it through a two hour rehearsal, for sure.

I do think I’ve lost range and agility, but hard to say how much of that is from age, EDS, lack of practice, etc. Currently I sing in a kirtan ensemble and since kirtan is meant to be call and response, I get breaks during the responses, as well as stay within a relatively easy range for everyone, and we take turns leading, so demands are low-ish.


It does sound like quite alot to get done in one surgery! The deviated septum looks like it could be quite painful surgery (something my husband is considering), it certainly wouldn’t be a good idea along with intraoral styloidectomy, with all the swelling & needing to breathe through your mouth, so would your surgery be external?
I think Isaiah has covered everything about what to get ready!

Hi there singer…I am just pre-diagnosis and curious. When I try to sing (or yell, or cough), I choke and sometimes gasp for a while and can’t really breathe. Does this happen to you? It started many years ago, probably when my styloid started getting in the way of stuff. It worsened much more as I entered middle age. Now if I raise my voice or do anything much, I choke and scare everyone off. lol. I do miss singing.

The symptoms you describe sound like they’re coming from an irritated or compressed vagus nerve. The Vagus innervates our vocal cords, influences swallowing & breathing along w/ heart rate & blood pressure (+ many other body functions). As I’m sure you’ve read here, the vagus nerve is commonly affected by ES.

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